Neighbourhood policy in need of a communication strategy?

According to a Eurobarometer opinion poll, citizens have little awareness of the EU’s neighbourhood policy.

The Eurobarometer survey, published on 10 October 2006, showed that Europeans lack basic knowledge about the European Neighbourhood Policy and EU enlargement. Only 23% of Europeans know that the EU has 25 member states, while 52% thought the EU had fewer members.

When asked about who might be preparing to join the EU soon, only 25% know that Bulgaria was to join and 29% were aware of Romania joining in the near future. In contrast, 42% of those asked knew that Turkey was preparing to join. Meanwhile almost 10% thought that Poland and Hungary had not yet joined.

Almost one in two EU citizens said they had little or no interest in what is happening in their neighbouring countries. Only 18% said that they had heard of the EU’s neighbourhood policy, which comprises relationships with former Soviet Union states in the east and Mediterranean and North African countries in the south. 

On the other hand 72% of EU citizens support further enlargement of the Union “provided the process does not go too fast”, compared to 45% who supported further enlargement in general in an earlier Eurobarometer on enlargement in July 2006 (see EURACTIV, 1 August 2006).

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) was designed to create a periphery around the enlarged EU by deepening relationships with neighbouring countries and, at the same time, trying to offer an alternative to those who might not be able to join. Participating countries are Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. 

Nevertheless, it has been questioned whether sharing “everything but institutions” is enough of an incentive for Europe’s neighbours to pursue reforms as the candidate countries do. Georgia and Ukraine have criticised the ENP and expressed their hopes of becoming candidates for EU membership.

During the fourth quarter of 2006, the Commission is to review the action plans it launched in 2004 with its neighbouring countries in its progress reports.

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